For the more than 30 million Americans living with hearing loss, dining out can be a tricky situation. Hearing loss, particularly age-related or noise-induced, makes scenarios where the speech of friends or loved ones contends with background noise extremely taxing. For this reason, restaurant settings are particularly difficult for people with hearing loss.
Whether you’re a foodie who loves a night out or your social life depends upon going out for meals, there are tips for dining out with hearing aids that make the entire experience less stressful.
How Hearing Loss Works
Both noise-induced and age-related hearing loss typically impact folks later in life. One-third of people over the age of 65 live with hearing loss, making it one of the leading chronic health conditions in the United States.
Many people demonstrate a mixture of both causes of hearing loss. The way both the toll of time and excessive noise damage hearing is by degenerating the health of the inner ear cells. While each feature of the hearing system is important and works in harmony, these small but mighty cells are responsible for an integral aspect. They collect noise from the world and turn it into sound information that is then sent to the brain for interpretation.
When the inner ear cells begin to decline, we lose some of our capacity to hear the full spectrum of sound because the body doesn’t replace or repair injured cells. With fewer cells to capture sound, we might begin to lose access to certain sound frequencies.
This is why one of the most prevalent early warning signs of hearing loss is encountering difficulty in speech clarity, or hearing what people are saying to you.
Tips For Dining Out With Hearing Loss
Read online reviews
Of course, when heading to your favorite restaurant, you probably won’t have unanswered questions about the sound level. However, when you’re choosing a new place, it helps to consider the information available to you before you go. Reading online reviews is a great way to gain insight into a new experience. Look for words like cozy, quiet, intimate, ambiance or ‘great for conversation.’ Many reviewers will come right out and say that a restaurant is too loud, or you can choose to read between the lines, interpreting ‘high energy’ as ‘too loud for me.’
Remember your hearing aids
A huge number of hearing aids these days come with programs that filter out background noise. You may even have a particular setting for dining or busy environments. Make sure you’re equipped with your hearing aids before you journey to your dining destination so that you have an additional tool in the battle against background noise.
While you’re in online detective mode, take a peek at any pictures of the restaurant posted online. Carpeted restaurants, which experienced a dip in trendiness but are slowly re-emerging, are much better sound environments for conversation. To that end, wood floors come in second. Avoid cement floors as those are the most likely to create a cacophonous dining experience.
Look for wood accents
The preference for wood extends to tables and accents, too. For some time, the restaurant scene went crazy for the industrial style, which is notoriously noisy. Wood, table linens and paneled ceilings or walls help make the sound environment easier on conversation by absorbing some of that background noise.
Sit with your back to the wall (a corner is best!)
When speaking with the host, ask for a table that allows you to sit with your back to the wall. A corner is best, though both options help to keep out the background noise you don’t want to hear and corral the sounds of your companion’s speech. The trend of high-backed booths is beneficial to those with hearing loss and can be a wonderful choice, too.
Round tables for larger groups
If you’re dining one-on-one or in a small group, a traditional table will do just fine. It’s much easier to hear and understand what people are saying when you can see their faces, mouth movements and when the sound waves are moving toward your direction.
Sometimes, dining out is required for occasions where more folks end up on the guest list. In a large group, request a round table if possible. This allows you to have a better chance of watching people’s faces as they speak, so that you can use context to fill in the blanks.
Talk To Our Team
If hearing loss is taking a toll on your conversations, get in touch with our team today!